Missing people are a sad and common phenomenon in post-conflict societies. Ranging i.a. from Argentina and Guatemala, to Chechnya, the former Yugoslavia and Cyprus they have come to symbolise the dark heritage of unjust regimes, of civil wars and dictatorships that continue to be a festering wound even decades after the formal resolution of violent conflict. "Doing away" with members of opposing groups, regime critics or inconvenient minorities has been commonly defined one of the most dramatic violations of human rights and a most drastic and horrifying technique to exhibit absolute power:
"The phenomenon of forced disappearance (...) is the worst of all human rights violations. Indeed, it is a challenge to the very concept of such rights, the negation of a human being to exist, to have an identity. Forced disappearance transforms the being into a non-being. It is the ultimate corruption, an abuse of power which allows the authorities to transform law and order into something derisory and to commit infamous crimes". (N. MacDermot)
As such the politically motivated dissappearance of people has been both an effective instrument of collective intimidation and a convenient method of dispensing with unpleasant opponents avoiding ethical accountability and the trouble of show trials. For good measure, uncovering the fate of these persons is often avoided by succeeding governments, even though other transitional justice measures might have been realized, for the circumstances of their disappearance would raise unpleasant legal issues.
In Argentina it was above all the endeavor and persevearance of the famous mothers of the "Plaza de Mayo", which excerted pressure onto succeeding governments of the Pinochet-regime (1976-1983) to disclose the circumstance of their son´s disappearance. Similarly, in Guatemala, the former Yugoslavia, Cechnya and Cyprus it is primarily an alliance of civil society organizations and relatives that engaged into the trouth-seeking process. Truth and Clarifications Commisisons under the auspices of the United Nations and the Red Cross, as well as specialized politial chambers formed by the respective governments themselves, have been established to officially facilitate that process - with moderate success. Although significant achievements can be measured in the location and exhumation of mortal remains and the financial aid for families of the missing, the spheres of legal investigation, official acknowledgement of the victim´s plight, and the establishment of collective commemorations for committed atrocities have been widely neglected.
Thus, the missing persons as conflict and post-conflict-phenomenon can be seen as powerful indicator of both, the grades of human right violations during conflict and the quality of post-conflict transformation and reconciliation.
In the seminar the we will discuss and compare how different societies deal with that matter, as well as the legal, social, emotional and ethical dimensions that are directly related. Students will get the chance of a profound insight into the theory of transitional justice and reconciliation, and comparative conflict analysis, as well as a first-hand insight into the role of the missing in the Cyprus Conflict.
The seminar will be realized as block-seminar in late Januar- early February. Exact dates will be announced at the first session.
All students who want to participate are supposed to have read ALL THE LITERATURE for the first block-session (not for the preparatory session on november 2nd).
The course is planned as block-session to be hold from January 26th to January 28th 2018.